Oando Drags SEC To Court Of Appeal, Challenges High Court Order Suspending Its Shares

Oando Plc has approached the Court of Appeal to challenge an order obtained by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) suspending its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. 

The oil company had earlier secured an interim injunction, granted by Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, restraining SEC from carrying out audit of its business activities.

Oando then approached the court to challenge the suspension of its shares and an audit of its business activities by forensic experts hired by SEC. But Justice Aikawa, in a 23 November ruling, dismissed Oando's suit, explaining that he had no jurisdiction to entertain it.

Justice Aikawa stated that the Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) is the appropriate forum to handle the matter.

Dissatisfied, the oil firm, through its lawyer, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), headed to the Court of Appeal seeking the reversal of Justice Aikawa's ruling. Oando's lawyer insisted that the Federal High Court, not the IST is the appropriate forum to hear the case.

Mr. Sowemimo maintained that Justice Aikawa erred in law by declining jurisdiction because "the suit touched and concerned the operation of a company incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act".

He maintained that by virtue of Section 251(i)(e) of the Constitution, the Federal High Court is empowered to entertain CAMA-related cases. Mr. Sowemimo, is therefore, urging the Court of Appeal for an order reversing that issued by Justice Aikawa, which dismissed Oando suit, and restoring the matter to the cause list of the Federal High Court for accelerated hearing.

At the proceedings before Justice Aikawa on Monday, Mr. Sowemimo informed the judge about the appeal and urged him to issue an order "preserving the res to prevent the appeal from being rendered nugatory."

However, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), counsel to SEC and the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which was joined as the second defendant, opposed Mr. Sowemimo's application for the preservation of res.

Mr. Idigbe argued that the issues raised by Oando in its appeal "are not substantial in law," insisting that it is in the best interest of investors, shareholders and the general public that Oando's shares under technical suspension by SEC.

He said the technical suspension is to prevent panic and dumping of Oando's shares by investors and members of the public, adding that the technical suspension is temporary measure imposed to allow for an independent forensic audit of the company's activities.
Mr. Idigbe maintained that there is no reason for Justice Aikawa to make an order preserving the res because "the suspension of the trading of the plaintiff's shares in the Nigerian Stock Exchange has already been completed."

"The forensic examination of the plaintiff's business activities has already commenced and the parties are waiting for the report of the said investigation.

"The temporary suspension of trading of the shares is not a punitive action against the plaintiff, but a device to protect the shares of the plaintiff from further decline because of the investigation.

"The undertaking of the forensic examination of the plaintiff by independent experts will not prevent a return to status quo if the appeal succeeds," Idigbe argued.

Mr. Sowemimo prayed for time to file a reply to Mr. Idigbe's counter-affidavit. 

Justice Aikawa adjourned further proceedings in the case till Wednesday.
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